This is possibly the second or third time that “You Should Date an Illiterate Girl”, by Charles Warnke has been circulated to me via one form of social media or another.
While there is some commendable sentiment in it on the nature of living and loving deliberately and the great privilege of having a partner who leads a rich inner life, it’s generally dreadful.
Why? Because it perpetuates the same myth that all popular culture seems to about the nature of romantic love, and because the author is generally excusing himself.
First, the myth: the way that the final scene in most romantic fiction ends when a couple are actually united, and that a rewarding relationship is essentially predestined from that point. Popular romantic culture is every bit as unhealthy as the popular fast-food restaurants that line every high street, creating and rewarding urges for instant gratification and denying you knowledge of what your body and soul really needs. Romance being entirely about acquisition. That’s not romance, that’s comedy, in several senses.
And meanwhile, there is a conspicuous absence of popular culture on the topic of making a life-long relationship fulfilling. “You should date an illiterate girl” dresses itself up as something more profound, but the object of the author’s ire remains his choice in the first place: to date a girl who didn’t read books. The final scene of his rom-com saw him step out with the wrong person, and so now he idealise the other, the “girl who reads” who would have made him a better man, given him a better life.
Second, his excuses. Sure, he describes his own irritability, his own misogyny (‘Dispatch with making love. Fuck her.”) and his own lack of deliberate living. But still, it’s always all her fault for not being better, for not making him better.
It’s vividly written and possibly extremely honest (and I am all for dating girls who read books). The author describes very well how his own vanity and eager willingness to have a partner he could dominate intellectually and emotionally have served him badly. But the minor tragedy of the life he describes wouldn’t have been averted without more self-knowledge than this.
(by the way, my wife does read)